An Interview with Donna Fry

Doug:  Thanks for agreeing for the interview, Donna.  There are so many things that I’ve always been curious about and your bio is so long.  For many of us in the province, you’ve become a powerful voice at so many levels.  I hope to touch them all in this interview.

Donna:  Hi Doug.  It is a honour to be asked to do this.  Thank you for the opportunity.  “Powerful voice” is Donnasomething that carries with it a lot of responsibility.  Perhaps a good place to start is right there.  I am just a passionate educator who is determined to make sure every single child entering the public school system gets the opportunity to achieve what he or she can and wants to.  There are too many kids disengaged, too many classrooms that are not environments that encourage curiosity, creativity, exploration and student ownership of learning, and that’s not okay.  I should also say that in the bigger picture, ensuring there IS a vibrant accessible public school system that encourages our young people to think critically and become great citizens is what I stand for.

Doug:  Let’s start with an easy question – where did we first meet?

Donna: Ah, easy.  After “knowing you” online and in the computer education circles for many years, we finally met face to face at the Davinci Centre in Thunder Bay where you were speaking at SeLNO (Symposium for eLearning in Northwestern Ontario).  What a treat it was to finally speak to you in person, and right on my home turf!

Doug:  I think that my first contact with you was when we both were involved with eLearning in the province.  While mine was pretty standard, working for a school district, you had a different role.  Can you tell us a bit about that?

Donna: Sure.  eLearning has been a real passion for a long time.  I grew up in northern Ontario and I was keenly aware of the need for access to a wider range of choice for students in small high schools.  In the mid-90’s, I was fortunate to be working with some people in TLDSB who had a vision for what eLearning could be, and in 1997 I started teaching online as part of the alternative education program in that board.  We (a group of very determined online teachers) built that program up to be a very successful model with recorded synchronous online classes long before online meetings were common and before eLearning Ontario was established. The Virtual Learning Centre is still an innovative provider of public online courses.  It’s a great example of what can be accomplished when innovative and determined educators work together to create learning opportunities for Ontario students.

Doug:  You’ve had experience with education in both southern and northern Ontario.  Is it all the same?  Are kids, kids?  Or are there different challenges?

Donna: Certainly there are differences, but I don’t think the division is a necessarily a north/south one, except for the challenges of distance when it comes to learning opportunities for teachers.  The cost of travel, in real dollars and in time away from classrooms, has a huge impact on access to f2f professional learning.

Travel time also impacts student attendance.  Some students have 4-hour drives (one-way) to the orthodontist, and many families have to take all the children with them when one has an appointment because they can’t get home on time to care for the other children after school.  

It also impacts opportunities for our athletes.  I remember being in Peterborough when the OFSAA Cross Country running championships were being held in Thunder Bay (2006).  CBC Radio was interviewing the southeastern Ontario athletes and talking about the hardships of having to travel so far and then perform at their peak, and how unfair that was.  The idea that northwestern Ontario athletes have to make that trip for every other “provincial” competition didn’t seem to enter their thinking!

In our urban schools, we have very successful sports programs, but in our rural schools, it takes hours just to get to the next school and it can cost $1300 just for a bus to play a league basketball game.  The challenges of remoteness and distance are very real.  They are not unique to the north, but they are more pervasive here and it’s a struggle to find ways to fund opportunities for kids that are just taken for granted in other parts of Ontario.

Every community is different. Every community and school has unique challenges and we need to work to make sure we need to meet the needs of all students no matter where we are.  I think there are a few challenges we deal with more often up here.  

We need to do a better job of supporting our First Nations students, particularly in the transition from band schools to publicly funded schools.  

We need to figure out how to best share resources among coterminous boards so that we are not competing for students, but collaborating to best educate all youth in our communities together.  

With so many of our parents working in remote locations, often for 2-3 weeks at a time, we need to better leverage technology to keep parents engaged in the school environment. And, we need to advocate much more strongly for adequate access to what others take for granted, like internet access at all schools for all students and access to learning opportunities that meet the needs of all learners.  It’s not okay for that to be restricted because there are only a small number of students or because the school is far away.  Technology-enabled learning has the potential to bring boundless education opportunities to remote students, but we need to figure out bandwidth issues first.

Doug:  When you were principal at Nipigon-Red Rock, you were also the DeLC of Superior Greenstone District School Board.  How did you manage to find time to do both?

Donna: I didn’t.  I was the worst DeLC in the province! My eLC will confirm that! :)  

In my first two years as DeLC, it was fine because I was supporting eLearning and with only a few courses running, I was able to handle the DeLC role.  We promoted online courses, organized teacher training in the LMS, made sure students had a great orientation to eLearning, and supported teachers in their roles.  

But when blended learning opened up, and we were able to hire a fabulous eLC to support blended learning in schools, I could no longer keep up with the demand of being a secondary principal by day and a DeLC at night.  I was holding up the eLC in her work, so we worked together to ensure she learned all she needed to know to copy her own courses and to make sure she could meet the needs of the teachers and students without having to wait for me to catch up.  I still helped in a supportive role, but the eLC took on all the day-to-day maintenance of the org.  I think that balancing the eLC and DeLC roles is still challenging for boards, especially as blended learning continues to grow exponentially.  Blended learning is transforming education in Ontario and we need to keep thinking about how to further support boards in their practice.

Doug:  How important is eLearning to northern Ontario schools?

Donna: I think it’s critical to ensuring access to learning opportunities, but it’s more than that too.

We need to make sure that the online learning opportunities are not “just a solution” to the problems of access, but opportunities to collaborate with other students and expand learning.  Online learning needs to be integrated seamlessly into the lives of students everywhere, not just in the north, and we have some ground to cover before this is a reality.   The bricks and mortar school structures are not always conducive to students learning online, and we don’t have a clear shared understanding of what this can look like.

We do have many leaders, though, who are really working on this and we are making progress.  Our parents need to know that eLearning is not a second rate solution for their children because they are up north.  They need to know that all students in Ontario benefit from learning online from the best possible teachers using the best technology.

Doug:  From your experience, is there an eLearning course that you would identify as the toughest to teach?

Donna: GLS1O/2O Learning Strategies  I think that pairing learning strategies in a f2f classroom (either at the intermediate or senior level) in combination with another online course can work brilliantly.  The f2f teacher uses the learning strategies course to teach the student how to be successful in the online course, and then supports the student in succeeding in the online course.  But teaching learning strategies online without that support at the student desk, was very challenging.  The very strategies I was teaching were the ones needed to be successful as an independent learner.

Doug:  How about from a student perspective. Is there one that’s toughest to take?

Donna: I think that it really depends on the student.  In all courses, that constant connection with the teacher is critical.  As a principal, I was fortunate to have a Program Leader in Student Services (Jenni Scott-Marciski – she presented at ECOO13) who advocated for online learners and supported them tirelessly.  All online students should have access to a f2f educator who checks in with them.  As an online teacher, I could only reach students if they logged in.  Yes, I called home often, but realistically, they need to log in for the teacher to reach them.  A supportive adult at the home school is such an important factor in their success.

Doug:  At yet, you still also found time to blog.  How passionate are you about your own personal blogging?

Donna: I don’t blog as often as I would like to.  However, modelling connected learning, and sharing what I am learning, is important to me.  I am so fortunate right now to be able to attend so many conferences and learning opportunities, and I need to share that learning with those who can’t go.  I hope others feel the same.  We need to nurture those who work to share learning.

Blogging also helps me to take all the information that comes at me, and work on ways to connect it, reflect on it, and learn from it.  I learn through writing and organizing ideas, so blogging is part of the learning process for me, and it helps me to keep my thinking all in one place.

Doug:  Recently, you’ve taken that passion provincially with the OSSEMOOC project.  Can you tell us a bit about that?

Donna: OSAPAC, the committee you know well, is changing its focus slightly so that we are also working to support learners in using digital resources.  When we think about student learning, we know that teachers can’t know everything anymore, and that the new model of student-centered learning has teachers as co-learners with students.

Similarly, school and system leaders can no longer have all the answers.  They need to be co-learners with teachers.  The difference, though, is that school and system leaders make the big decisions around student learning, so they must have a solid understanding of technology-enabled learning and how their decisions can impact student achievement. For that to happen, we need to help school and system leaders build capacity, and connections.  They need to have a good understanding of educational technology, but they also need to know who to consult with before making decisions.

So with #OSSEMOOC, we are trying to build that capacity and those connections.  

We need to create a sustainable learning environment in Ontario that promotes self-directed learning for education leaders, and

  • considers all learning preferences
  • allows for all levels of readiness
  • provides numerous entry points
  • is flexible
  • allows choice
  • respects limitations of time
  • supports a variety of learner interests
  • promotes the development of connections and connected learning

It’s quite a challenge, and we haven’t solved everything yet, but we are adamant that we are learners too, and right now we are learning to share and connect in a way that engages those who are making the decisions that impact the learners in this province.

Here is a full explanation:

Doug:  OSAPAC certainly was one of my passions having served on that committee for years.  As parting gifts, members from my time received amethyst gifts from Thunder Bay.  Mine sits proudly on an end table.  I know that you and a few other Twitter users are real ambassadors for the Thunder Bay area.

If I asked you to make a list, what are 3-5 things about Thunder Bay that, we in the south, probably don’t know, what would you say?

Donna:  Wow, there are so many things that come to mind.  

I think first, that the Thunder Bay/Superior North Shore region is without a doubt the most beautiful part of Ontario and so many have never seen it.  Lake Superior is addictive, and just sitting at a red light in Thunder Bay, looking out over the Sleeping Giant, is such a wonder.  The cafeteria at my last school was on the second floor, overlooking the lake, and I could never understand how anyone could eat lunch with their back to the window!

Thunder Bay, in spite of the name, is still very much Port Arthur and Fort William.  There are strong communities like Westfort with their own downtown areas within the city limits.  The cross country skiing is world class, we are still fighting to get our ski jumping facilities back open again (closed by Mike Harris). Thunder Bay is a hotbed of athletic talent, home to the National Team Development Centre for nordic skiing, hockey (think Staal brothers), a number of world class cyclists, wrestlers, swimmers and other Olympians. It is the perfect place for those who love to play in the outdoors, with unlimited crown land and some of the best ice and rock climbing in the province.

Food in Thunder Bay is very expensive to buy, but there is a very strong local food movement.  You can buy flour and granola made from locally grown grain, locally made cheese and yogurt, and there is an extensive selection of local meats and vegetables.  I was amazed at how well you can eat by concentrating on local produce.

It takes years to find all the best places for food in Thunder Bay, but the strong Italian, Finnish and Polish cultures mean that the city is full of tiny grocers where you can find locally made smoked meats, perogies, Italian imported foods, Finnish products and baking.  Once you know where to shop, you can find the most amazing and unique food products. It takes us three to four hours to shop on weekends.

Coney dogs, Persians, Old Dutch barbecue chips – all unique to Thunder Bay and common sights at the airport after holidays as locals hoard as much of their favourite Thunder Bay foods to take back home with them.

It is really fantastic place to live.  It is frustrating to me that so many people ignore this big, beautiful part of Ontario.  There are two sides to the Ontario road map! I am always telling people to flip it over!

Doug:  Speaking of Thunder Bay, a couple of years ago, you were a panelist for an ECOO presentation.  I remember you arriving all in a huff with seconds to go before the presentation.  There’s a great story behind that.  Can you share it?

Donna: “All in a huff” is a polite way to say it!  The full story is on my blog:

Essentially, being a principal at the time, I didn’t have the luxury of a day away from school for travel.  I left my house at 4:30 a.m. to catch the 6:30 a.m. flight out of Thunder Bay to Toronto.  That left lots of time to get to my 3:30 Panel Discussion at ECOO, right?  Wrong! Toronto was fogged in and we spent hours on the tarmac at Ottawa! I arrived at ECOO at 3:31 p.m. and was walking on stage with suitcases still in hand!

However, it was worth it!  Imagine being on stage with Nora Young, John Seeley Brown, Jaime Casap and Michael Fullan!  It was a rare and powerful opportunity to share with the best!

Doug:  Recently, you’ve taken a position as an Education Officer with the Ontario Ministry of Education.  Which of your many skills and experiences do you feel bring added value to your new position?

Donna: Ah, it is always challenging to talk about strengths outside of a job interview!  I work with a very skilled and passionate team of Education Officers at eLO.  Change is fast in education right now, and we are working hard to support technology-enabled  learning in the province.  I think that having taught online for many years, having worked as a DeLC and a secondary principal as well as having system level responsibilities help me to see the challenges of implementing digital learning through several lenses.

Doug:  OK, moving on then…  Recently, I’ve read that you’re thinking about being involved in an edcamp in Thunder Bay.  I’ve been there to do presentations a few time and educators there are so enthusiastic.  When is yours scheduled?  When can people start registering?  What do you hope to accomplish?

Donna: The edCamp still exists in our heads, but we are progressing.  One of our very active parents, Sheila Stewart, recently went to edCampLdn to get some experience in what this is all about.  We have lots of enthusiastic educators who will help.  I am one month away from my daughter’s wedding, and after that we will start talking dates.

Doug:  You’re also a big time runner.  How many km a week are you running?  Is there a favourite path in Thunder Bay that you enjoy?

Donna:  Running has been my space to get away and think for many years.  I use it to listen to podcasts and music or just to enjoy the scenery up here.  A year ago, I was heading off to work in the dark, as usual, but I was taking my son’s car instead of mine, and I misjudged the top of the car door and slammed the door on my left eye.  It has left me with some issues that took me right out of the running scene for almost 9 months, and it has been a challenge getting back into it safely and symptom-free, but I have my sights set on Miles with the Giant in September.  My favourite place to run in Thunder Bay is the 5 K loop around Boulevard Lake, but I run on the Sibley peninsula a lot and in the summer I train as much as possible in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.  There is a 27 km trail over the feet of the giant and out to the tip of the peninsula that is perfect. I also love to run the camp roads along the shore of Lake Superior, especially with those cooling winds in the summertime!

Doug:  Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Donna.  I know that many of us enjoy your interactions on Twitter and on your blog.  Your efforts continue to motivate Ontario leaders in an ever-changing world.

Stay in touch with Donna.

Leading the Charge

I had an interesting conversation with a friend online recently.  She asked “Why do teachers use or continue to use ABC when their district purchased XYZ“? 

It’s a really good question.

I think it’s a sign of the times and it’s not simply a question of resisting change.

There was a time when people would just blindly follow the lead of those in authority who make those type of decisions.  There was also a time where you would talk with the teacher across the hall or perhaps in the staffroom and use that as a place for conversations, collaborations or professional learning.

Times have changed.

There was a time when inspiration might come in the form of an email.  That’s hardly the case now.  In fact, for many people, email is the last digital place checked.

Now, your next best collaboration or conversation may come from half a world away.  It may be ongoing or it might be just for the moment.  Either works successfully.  With the proper network, there’s always someone ready to learn with you.

On the open web, we have the best digital smorgasbord in the world.  We have choice.

To quote another friend of mine, “I go where my friends are”.

Those who would be leaders need to be aware of this and use it to inform their decisions. 

Heck, they need to lead the charge to this wonderful world of learning.

It was another great reading from Ontario Edublogs.  Here’s some of what I enjoyed this past week.

Wow what a great day of learning at the Ontario GAFE Summit

The Ontario Google Apps in Education Summit was held last weekend.

It’s always pleasurable to read blogs and Twitter stories from people who attended professional learning events.  This blog post will bring you up to speed with at least a part of the summit.  And, the content is extended further with a Storify of Twitter messages to tell more of the story.

Jonathon’s comments certainly echoed what I caught from the summit with the hashtage #gafesummit


Tim King had a different take on the Google Summit.  He was tweeting some non-summit things clearly at the time the summit was happening and they had nothing to do with it.  Oh, I finally clued in, he’s stayed home to watch the Bahrain Grand Prix.  Sometime during the weekend, he penned his thoughts about getting excited about a sole provider in education.

It’s an interesting reality check for all to have.  As I commented on his blog, technology does tend towards a single solution at times.  i.e “We’re a Macintosh board” or “We’re a Windows board”.  There’s certainly more curriculum to cover than time, do we have the time to spend on a broad sampling of software or hardware?

Also check out his later post “Hack the Future“.

Want Great PD? Enter Another Teacher’s Classroom!

This is something that we all know could be of value but the time has to be right, arrangements made, and a plan put into action.  My computer science classroom door was never closed and a certain Science teacher would always wander in while I was working with students and see what they were doing and asking questions.

I remember the first time that it happened – it was my first year of teaching and a million thoughts entered my mind “Were we to noisy?” “Did one of my students get caught wandering the halls?” “Was there a science experiment gone bad and there was an evacuation?”

No, he was just curious…

This post by Diane Maliszewski should serve as a reminder that we don’t need to have a big, involved professional development event to learn.  Sometimes, a great idea may be just down the hallway.

Feeling off-balance is okay

Julie Balen offers a wonderful post that should remind us all that the learning should never stop.

Taking technology purchased for one of her courses and then using it in all her courses was considerably more involved than passing them out, turning them on, and watching the magic happen.

I think that everyone could or maybe even should write this blogpost from their own experiences.

It’s a nice reality check.

What a wonderful collection of posts from this past while.  Thanks so much to the authors.  I hope that you take the time to visit these blogs and enjoy the full postings.  While you’re reading, check out the complete listing of Ontario Edublogs here.

A #BIT14 Twitter Chat

A number of Ontario (and other places … first two participants were from Australia and Singapore) educators came together for the first of a number of Twitter Chats leading into the 2014 Bring IT, Together Conference.  The conference will be held in Niagara Falls, ON on November 5-7.  There are still a few days for people to submit session proposals for the conference so the hopes were that the content of the chat might lend some inspiration for those experiencing writer’s block getting their proposals ready.  The topic?

“Your biggest challenge integrating technology into the classroom/school”.

A Storify of the chat transcript is located here.


A big thanks to those who joined in.  Look for another chat in the near future designed to get people thinking and meeting about computer and technology before the actual conference.

21st Century Literacies: Media Literacy in My Classroom

The following is a guest blog post courtesy of Michelle Solomon and Carol Arcus.


The Association for Media Literacy is a volunteer charitable organization comprised of parents, educators and media producers who support the development and application of media literacy. They have been a driving force in the support and development of media literacy curriculum in Ontario since 1978. They have also been recognized internationally for their work, winning an award for “The Most Influential Media Education Organization in North America” in 1998. The AML organizes and provides workshops, presentations and seminars for educators, parents and students. They speak at conferences around the world and for locally organized events: institutes, conferences, PD Days, parents’ nights and university courses.

One of the more recent initiatives is the “21st Century Literacies” series, begun in partnership with York University’s Faculty of Education in 2012. The intent was to address the changing landscape of learning in response to changing media tools and technologies. That first year, a conference was mounted in the Spring to support teacher candidates; the theme was the use of social media in the classroom. Since then, the conferences have continued annually in the month of April, more recently offering workshops on the teaching, integration, and assessment of media literacy skills at all levels.

This year, on April 5, the AML is presenting “Media Literacy in My Classroom”, an opportunity to meet practising teachers who will share their teaching strategies and answer questions such as, “How do I use media to improve the presentation and oral skills of students?” and “What does student media work look like and how do I assess it?” The conference spans the day (8:30 to 4), is free, and is open to York Faculty of Education teacher candidates, as well as all educators interested and involved in media literacy education.

Registration is done through Eventbrite and, at the time of this writing, only a very few seats were left.  If you’re interested, register soon.

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A First Time for Everything

On the event of its 8th birthday, Twitter has released a tool that will let you find your first Twitter message.  Ah, the good ol’ days.  My first message was…

I have no idea the context or even where I was.  I do know that, if I was in Essex County, it might have been one of our famous storms that come up at a moment’s notice.  For those of you who question my sleeping habits, you’ll undoubtedly notice that it was first thing in the morning, even back then.  ~59.5K messages later and here I am today.

I am comforted that my message wasn’t “I hope this works” or “Testing…Testing…Testing” or “I’m in a workshop learning how to Tweet”.

What was your first Twitter message?

Head over to the tool and find out.  It’s located here.

You’re not limited to just yourself.  Find and shame your friends!

I’ll bet that the hashtag #FirstTweet trends for the next week or so until we tire of this and move on….

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Lots of fun and good reading this past week from Ontario Edubloggers had me doing some thinking.  Thanks to those who continue to push things via their blogs.

Baking Cookies as Life Lessons

Now, I didn’t know that Diana Maliszewski didn’t cook.  Apparently, she doesn’t bake either.  But, she did challenge herself over the March Break and shared her stories and a number of pictures of her efforts.  With each success, she shared some lessons that she learned.  Her post started as an amusing read but turned into one with great learnings and I thank her for being open enough to share them.

By way of modelling, she’s avoiding saying “I don’t like cooking.”  Perhaps more people should adopt this positive approach.  We might never hear the words “I don’t like Mathematics” again.  To steal a phrase, just do it.  You’ll like the results.

The Problem with SAMR

In a recent post, Royan Lee takes on one of the current sacred cows of our time in technology.  It also generated a great deal of activity in the comments.  What I like about SAMR is that it’s causing people to have a conversation about technology.  We haven’t seen this much conversation about a single topic since “It’s about good teaching, not about the technology.”  In many cases, it’s the same people trying to each from both sides of the platter.

In the post, Royan gives a reasoned approach to what he finds as problems with SAMR.  I found myself agreeing with so much of what he wrote.

Sadly, I think that many of the folks who are hammering SAMR are just using it as the latest tool.  “We bought xxxxx instead of yyyyy because of SAMR”.  Or, take a look and you’ll find people drawing charts, graphs, and so on identifying applications by SAMR level.  Sadly, it’s all to the exclusion of good teaching.  Somehow because someone who people look up to makes a chart that says this app fits into “Redefinition”, they interpret it to mean that it actually does despite teaching practice and that it will work the same way for all teachers and all students?   Why do we even have teachers if this is true?

I wonder if these people have even looked at Dr. Puentedura’s resources?

If I Ruled The World — Or At Least Had My Say On Curriculum Expectations …

Aviva Dunsiger is always good for a read and I could have chosen many of her recent posts to include here.  I decided to take a look at this once where she took the discussion of the value of cursive writing to her blog.

Now, I’ve never had to teach students cursive writing.  I have had to tell students to print and not use cursive while writing programs so that they can recognize the intricacies of their code later.  I wonder how much longer it would take to print a test rather than write a test.  We’re nowhere near universal access to technology so using a computer keyboard everywhere is out of the question.  Heck, we haven’t even wrestled BYOD to the ground yet.

But I wonder…

  • How would you sign your name to a cheque or a mortgage?
  • If you don’t learn to write in cursive, could you read a document that was done in cursive?
  • What would the guy from Pawn Stars with the big briefcase holding a magnifying glass do if his handwriting recognition expertise is no longer needed?

Self-Serve Learning – but only at school?

Heather Theijsmeijer is sharing her thoughts about how BYOD is working in her classroom through her blog.  Specifically, this post talks about her MFM2P class.  Math classes depend so much upon prior love of the subject area and 2P is no different.

But, how about moving to a BYOD model?  Maybe the world will change with the “D”s?  Students will work faster and be more engaged, right?  Heather shares some honest insights from her experiences.

She closes with more questions than answers…

I think these are important questions that at least need to be asked before diving into the BYOD swimming pool.  Bringing devices into a classroom isn’t going to change years of a mindset and expectations overnight.  Hopefully, she’s still early enough in the course to be able to get some satisfactory answers to her questions.  And, if YOU have the answers, share them through her blog.

The Transformative Power of Reading and Talking Literature

I felt guilty reading Julie Balen’s recent post.

I used to read a great deal of fiction.  But, I turned to the bookshelf behind me and it’s full of computer technical manuals, programming language references, printer paper, and two books by Earl Derr Biggers.

I feel a resolution may be in order.

Thanks again to those Ontario Edubloggers who continue to write about such interesting things.  Please take the time to visit these blogs and share your thoughts with the writers.  The complete list of Ontario Edubloggers is available here.  If you are an Ontario Edublogger and not already listed, please add yourself.  I’d really like to read your blog.

A Chance to Articulate

As I noted yesterday, I think that it’s important that you have the chance to articulate just what it is that you’re doing with technology.  If you can’t explain why and how, it’s difficult to justify the time and cost devoted to the project.  In the post, I really liked the fact that Jenny Luca took the time to explain to the parents of her school community just what it is that her school is doing and why.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity as co-chair for the Bring IT Together Conference to invite you to articulate just what you’re doing via a presentation at this great Ontario conference in November.

From your choice of 45 minute, half-day, or full-day sessions, you’ll have an audience of colleagues where you can share just what it is that you’re doing in your classroom.  Whether it’s a new piece of software, a new pedagogy, a tried and true project, …, the conference is filled with other educators looking for the best ideas to use in their classroom.

What’s unique about a conference articulation is that folks aren’t just chomping at the bit to get it over with and go home!  At a conference, people are there to learn and share.  It’s the social aspect that really enhances the learning.

In the move to Niagara Falls, the conference committee decided that there needed to be more than just a change in location.  A very serious effort was made to facilitate the social.  That’s why you’ll find the Learning Space where you can create your own edcamp like experience, the comfy chairs in the hallways, the photowalk, the socials, and just the location.  The place just lends itself so nicely for conversations.

Whether it’s people wanting to challenge your premise, wanting more information about it, or looking for partnerships between classrooms, this is a great place to start.

Why not consider articulating the great things that are happening in your class and school?

The Call for Proposals is currently open.  Click here to submit a proposal.

A more detailed post by yours truly appeared here.

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Given that many are taking an unpaid leave day today, I do hope that there are some readers of this post.  I want to share some of the excellent thinking from Ontario Educators from the past while.

Teacher Leadership and Change

Colin Jagoe’s most recent post talks about a change in the way that leadership happens in his board.  The direction seems to be one away from expertise in a subject area to responsibilities in more than one discipline.  Even the title that he describes is different going from Department Head to Lead Teacher.

I heard it said somewhere (and have often used the line myself) that there are 2 things that teachers hate. Change and the way things are.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out.  In years gone by, I was actually a Director – there were two of us in the school and we were differentiated from Department Heads by the size of budget that we managed.  Time moved on there to and, while the title is now Department Head, it does take in Family Studies in addition to Business Education.  I suspect that we’ll see more of this model as time goes by.  In the comments to the post, there’s an interesting discussion speculating why this has happened and possible benefits.

Olympic Medals and Test Scores

Does this sound like some other media fabrication that happens every fall where schools and districts are ranked based on provincial or state testing?

Colin Harris draws an interesting analogy between ranking of athletes at an Olympic event and the ranking of schools.  It’s like an extension to Alfred Thompson’s Sorting Isn’t Simple post.  There are more things that go on at Olympic games and I guess it’s only natural to guess and speculate as to how things are ranked.  Ask my wife and she’ll have a theory about the EQAO of Ice Skating judging.  Plus one of the criteria is number of medals – does this mean we won the Olympics because of all the gold medals we walked away with in hockey?

It is too bad that everything has to be judged – sometimes objectively and other times subjectively – with the ultimate goal of assigning a letter or a number or a medal to a performance.  We strive for perfect solutions to imperfect events.

Minecraft and Fractals – a wonderful pair!

Zoe Branigan-Pipe and Beth Carey offer an actual lesson plan for using Minecraft in the Mathematics classroom.  This lesson addresses the understanding of fractals.

I may just have to sit down and work through this to get a sense of how it works.  There are times when I feel like I’m the last person on earth to drink the Minecraft Koolaid.  Obviously, I’ve done it on the personal level and haven’t worked with it at any deep level of any sense.  Kudos to those that can make it work for them and their students.

Learning by Playing Around

Joan Vinall-Cox offers a first impression of working with the Notability app on her iPad.  In the course of her work, she finds some of the shortcuts that are built into iOS which are so handy.  I totally agree with her than an apostrophe would help these old keyboarding fingers.  I find going to the alternate layouts or long holding on the , key breaks up the flow that I get when I’m keying.

I’ll admit that when I’m keying on my iPad, I’m a hunter and pecker.  I’ve tried using the traditional layout and my keyboarding skills but it’s just not the same.  A couple of years ago, Zoe Branigan-Pipe and I bought ourselves Kensington keyboards and covers for our iPads.  That’s what I use when I’m typing there but I miss the right shift key.  I think I paid too much attention in Grade 9 Typing.

If anyone is looking for an ECOO 2014 presentation idea, how about a smackdown of the various text editing programs available for iOS?  I know that I would attended a comprehensive comparison of all that’s available.  Notability?  Evernote?  Penultimate?  Lumen Note?  Note Spark?  How’s a person supposed to know?

Safe Sounds for podcasting – Canada, 2014

Still at Joan’s site, she shared a presentation about getting safe sounds for podcasting.  I don’t think that this is a message that people can hear and relate to students often enough.

What’s really important to Ontario Educators is that Joan addresses Fair Dealing.  I get so tired of hearing people talking about Fair Use.
Anyway, it’s a good presentation to flip through as a reminder or a research for students.  In the light of the announcement of Getty images made today, I hope that she’ll do a similar presentation for that.
Great thinking folks.  Thanks so much for sharing.  Please visit the pages at the links above and read the entire posts.  You can check out the entire collection of Ontario Edublogs at the Livebinder located here.

Call for Presenters–#BIT14

ECOO members received an email yesterday announcing the Call for Presenters for the 2014 Bring IT, Together.  In case your announcement got caught in a spam filter, you missed it, or you’re not an ECOO member, the message appears below.


I had previously announced that the calls were open in a blog post “Get Your Keyboard Out #BIT14”.

Already announced are keynote speakers Richard Byrne from “Free Technology 4 Teachers” and George Couros, “The Principal of Change”.  Look for more details as they get confirmed.

A direct link to the “Call for Proposals” can be found here.

Please consider submitting a proposal if you’re doing something with technology that really works well in your classroom and/or there’s a topic that you’re passionate about.  It would be great to have you on the program.

This is the only conference for Ontario Educators by Ontario Educators in the province.  Plan now to be in Niagara Falls, ON for November 5, 6, 7, 2014.